Todd Gardenhire and Greg Vital are each well known here, the former for his long involvement in Republican circles, the latter for his business success in assisted-living developments and his mission-oriented philanthropy in helping non-profit organizations preserve green spaces and important historical buildings. Given their polished successes, the recently nasty tenor of their campaign has been surprising.
Regardless, their stumbles are best seen now as a distraction. Vital surely will never again allow a claim of an unearned college degree, and Gardenhire shouldn't be driven to charge his opponent for an embarrassing mailer without proof. Both faux pas pale against their bona fide credentials for public office.
Gardenhire is a smart, impressive candidate whose good-hearted, virtually anonymous gifts of time and effort in important public pursuits go unnoted. Yet some of his most public policy stands come in solid support of hard-right views -- i.e., on unfettered gun rights and support of the state's onerous, regressive sales tax -- that dissuade our support for his bid for the state Senate nomination.
Vital, whose ample campaign war-chest probably suggests his lead in this race, has become prominent more for his support of important environmental work than for his political aspirations. He has, to be sure, also endorsed the unfair state sales tax over a state income tax, among other unthinking GOP boilerplate standards.
His advantage to the broader public is his support of consensual, cooperative efforts for preserving important land and open space -- i.e., the Tennessee River Gorge, Moccasin Bend and Chickamauga Battlefield parkland, and Tennessee's heritage farms and scenic landscapes. Such work emphasizes both the intrinsic heritage value for our grandchildren, and the huge economic benefit to the state through recreation and tourism industries.
If he can change the conversation in the Legislature on that issue alone, he will help restore the traditional GOP environmental heritage that many former Republican national leaders used to automatically support, and he will well serve future generations. In that hope, we strongly endorse his nomination in the 10th District primary.